Alex Ross Spotlight: Very Early Marvel Art

By Rob Siebert
Not An Artist. At All.

You know what’s sad? Alex Ross drew better as a seven-year-old than I probably could as a 30-something-year-old.

Still, we all did this, right? Those of us who were into superheroes, anyway. We’d get a pencil and some crayons and go to town. I have vivid memories of sitting down and drawing Batman and Robin, the Power Rangers, the Ninja Turtles, etc. It’s just that Alex Ross took things several steps further.

That’s why he is who he is.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Friday, Swamp Thing X-Ray Robot, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Talking about Friday on a Wednesday

Well how about that. Not only is this train still runnin’ despite weekly comics not hitting shelves, but we got two out in one week!

I highly encourage everybody to go over to Panel Syndicate and check out not only Friday, but all the stuff available there. It’s all pay-as-you-wish, i.e. if you want to pay $3.99 for an issue, you can do that. If you want to pay nothing for an issue you can do that too. Heck, if you want to be super generous and pay $100 for an issue, knock yourself out! Right now the comic book industry needs all the help it can get.

TITLE: Friday #1
AUTHOR: Ed Brubaker
ARTISTS:
Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vincente
RELEASED:
April 2020

Courtesy of Panel Syndicate comes Friday, a “post-young-adult” story about two kid detectives (think Encyclopedia Brown or Harriet the Spy) who’ve hit adolescence. But when Friday Fitzhugh comes back from college, discovers she has at least one more mystery to solve with Lancelot Jones.

Lancelot Jones. Now that is a character name.

Thus far, Friday is your standard grounded and gritty Brubaker story. But I’m in love with the idea of child detectives grown up. The “glory days” of a certain innocence are over and now these kids, these former super-sleuths, have to face the real world.

TITLE: X-Ray Robot #1
AUTHOR: Mike Allred
ARTISTS:
Allred, Laura Allred (Colorist), Nate Piekos (Letterer).
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

Holy crap. Anybody got any weed?

By the time you close this issue, X-Ray Robot #1 manages to be a trippy experience. It’s part superhero comic, part B-movie, part psychedelic freak-out.

Apparently part of Mike Allred’s Madman Universe, X-Ray Robot is about a scientist who uses a robot to explore new dimensions. But an unexpected twist leaves him with a dilemma he never dreamed of.

I’m a casual Mike Allred fan, so I’ll have my eye out for this book once comics are hitting the stands again. It’s an…experience, to say the least.

TITLE: Capable #1
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hedrick
ARTISTS: Gino Kasmyanto, Periya Pillai (Colorist), Steve Ekstrom (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 22, 2020

Capable #1 is very much a low-level indie comic. It certainly reads like one in terms of dialogue. I understand high-schoolers have potty mouths. But being profane for profanity’s sake is obnoxious.

That said, the concept is compelling. Some kind of otherworldly occurrence gives disabled people around the world superpowers. Naturally some, like our main character Derik Davidson, use these abilities for good. Others for evil.

I’m inclined to give issue #2 a look. I want this book to live up to its potential. The only thing holding it back right now is some needlessly bush-league language.

TITLE: Space Is Awful #1
AUTHOR: Derek Moreland
ARTIST:
Derrick Fleece
RELEASED:
April 22, 2020

A black and white comic about a fat convenience store janitor in an outer space arena fighting a giant baboon and a robot that makes awful puns?

Sure. Why not?

Space is Awful reads like Clerks meets Coneheads meets a Simpsons Halloween special. It’s a comic that’s happy to bask in its own ridiculousness. I wish more comics could have the sense of unabashed fun that this one does. Very curious to see how they try to up the ante with issue #2.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Superman, and DC’s Digital Offerings

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
A Giant Something or Other

In response to the comic book industry being essentially stuck in limbo due to the Coronavirus pandemic, DC is releasing stories digitally that were previously exclusive to their DC Giants line. The Giants books were originally exclusive to mass market outlets, most notably Walmart. So what we’re getting here are basically re-prints.

But hey, they’re new to me. Plus, there’s some all-star talent attached to this stuff. We’ve got Brad Meltzer and Jim Lee on Batman, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on the Flash. Hey, sign me up!

I was also finally able to purchase that Superman: Villains one-shot. So I threw that in too.

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey.
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 20, 2020

Our story here is about the Parasite leeching off the city’s power grid and causing a mass blackout. In response, Superman tells the people of Metropolis to stand by one another. To share food, help find medicine for people in need, check on their neighbors, etc. Seems like a pretty poignant message right now, eh?

It’s so awesome when somebody gets Superman right. What we get here is also very accessible to new readers, and Paul Pelletier absolutely nails the art, particularly with the Parasite.

At the end of the day, this is the Superman I want to read.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #1
AUTHORS: Sal Giunta, Brad Meltzer, Larry Hama,
ARTISTS: Jim Lee, Mirko Colak, Scott Williams (Inker),
COLORISTS: Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz
LETTERERS: Chris Eliopoulos, Travis Lanham
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 21, 2020

What Sal Giunta and Brad Meltzer do with “Medal of Honor” is really special. So I’m simply going to encourage you to read it without going into things.

The Lee, Williams, and Sinclair trio give me Hush flashbacks. In a good way.

The second story follows a similar “service” theme, only with Kate Kane instead of Batman. We go back to her military days, which is unexpected but not unwelcome. But I’m sure it was a surprise for casual fans looking for Batwoman.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #1
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS:
Inaki Miranda, Hi-Fi (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Conner and Alex Sinclair.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 22, 2020

I’m not really a Harley Quinn fan. I know that’s enough to get me strung up in some circles. But I’ve almost always found her more annoying than humorous.

But with Wonder Woman as her “straight man” you get a pretty entertaining team. To their credit, they actually got me to chuckle when Harley appeared wearing what was supposed to be Amazonian armor.

Conner and Palmiotti write a hell of a Wondie. Early on, there’s an exchange between her and two security guards that I got a kick out of. Like Robert Venditti with Superman, they get her.

TITLE: Aquaman: Deep Dives #1
AUTHOR:
Steve Orlando
ARTISTS:
Daniel Sempere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Liam Sharpe and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 23, 2020

“My name is Black Manta. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

That’s basically what this issue is about.

I imagine because these were (at least in theory) released to a different audience, they wanted to start on the ground floor in some of these stories. That means a lot of expository dialogue. Superman: Man of Tomorrow did that. But this one really lays the expository dialogue on thick.

Great fight between Aquaman and Black Manta, though. At the “Museum of Unnatural History.” I adore that.

TITLE: The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1
AUTHOR:
Gail Simone
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dan Panosian.
RELEASED:
April 24, 2020

Coming out of this issue I know two things.

The Flash TV show has indeed ruined Iris West for me. Not because of the actress. Because of how she’s written.

Had it come out a month or two sooner, a few less people would have gotten on those disease-infested cruise ships.

Not surprisingly, Gail Simone writes a great Flash. Gail Simone writes a great almost-anything. Together with Henry, Maiolo, and Leigh, they’ve put together one of the highlights of this DC Giants digital-first campaign.

TITLE: Superman: Villains #1
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jody Houser
ARTISTS:
Michael Gaydos, Riley Rossmo, Scott Godlewski, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood.
COLORISTS:
Gaydos, Ivan Plascencia, Gabe Eltaeb, Alex Sinclair, Dave McCaig, Nathan Fairbairn, Mahfood.
LETTERERS:
Dave Sharpe, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Troy Peteri, Josh Reed.
RELEASED:
March 4, 2020

So here we have a bunch of villains reacting to Superman telling the world he’s Clark Kent. We hear from Toyman, Mongul, and a Joker-ized Supergirl (see Batman/Superman). We also get a story that bridges into future Superman and Action Comics storylines.

But by far the best part of the issue is a two-page Lex Luthor story, as he discovers he has 98 messages on his voicemail. And several of them (Possibly all of them?) are from the Joker. And he’s laughing. Take a wild guess at what he’s laughing at, folks…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit Retro Review – Hate that Joker!

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit
AUTHORS: Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway
ARTISTS: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, Guillem March
INKERS: Lorenzo Luggiero, BIT, Walden Wong
COLORISTS: JD Smith, Tomeu Morey
LETTERER: Steve Wands, Travis Lanham, Dave Sharpe
COLLECTS: Gotham City Sirens #1419
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: August 16, 2011

By Rob Siebert
The same Rob from up top.

It was somewhere during this story that I gave up on Gotham City Sirens ever being the book I wanted it to be. As it started out as a title written by Paul Dini, I was hoping we’d get something more light-hearted, akin to the work Dini did with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on Batman: The Animated Series. Over the first several issues, we did get that. But it tapered off as different writers started to come on to the book.

Strange Fruit is fairly low on humor, and it’s the first trade in the series without Dini’s name on it, but a high-stakes storyline keeps the title from taking a steep plunge in quality.

The first two issues continue the story that was started in the last book. It’s about Poison Ivy helping an alien or something. In all honesty, my distaste for a random alien appearance in a Bat-book pretty much took me out of the story. It’s not terrible. But I wasn’t a fan.

We then move into a story in which Talia al Ghul and Zatanna are trying to stop a group of bad guys from targeting Catwoman so they can learn Batman’s true identity. What further complicates things is that Catwoman lied to Harley and Ivy, telling them she didn’t know his identity. Trust issues galore can be found in this story, which will lead to Harley making a VERY dramatic decision.

Something’s been nagging at me about Gotham City Sirens for awhile, and it traces back to the events of this book. The way Andres Guinaldo draws the Joker (see below) irritates me terribly. We only see him through sporadic flashbacks, but I’m consistently bothered with the way Guinaldo puts those Dark Knight-ish red etches at the corners of his mouth. He’s not the first artist to do it, but the way he does it is really distracting. They’re much too big. It looks like he’s smeared lipstick on his cheeks. I understand part of it is just Guinaldo’s style. But The Joker’s Dark Knight look doesn’t lend itself to that style.

The story with Zatanna and Talia isn’t the strongest I’ve ever seen, but it’s good. Both have been romantically linked to Bruce Wayne in the past, and those connections make for interesting storytelling. Selina and Zatanna also have a history, which adds to the fire.

While there are a few Harley Quinn moments that harken back to the tone the series started with, the book sets more of a traditional tone, which essentially makes it just like all the other Bat-books, which means it loses a huge part of its selling point. At least for me. I’m certainly not heartbroken this series won’t be part of the New 52 reboot.

***In Hindsight***
My mind about Andres Guinaldo’s Joker has not changed. Thankfully, that trend has died down in the years since.

At the time, I gave this book a 6/10. Upon re-reading, that feels about right. I liked that they played with Selina’s knowledge of Bruce’s identity. Though ironically this was post-Final Crisis, and the Batman we see in this book is Dick Grayson.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Lost on Planet EarthFAB

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Really misses comic shops.

Happy to be back this week. Even though we don’t have much to cover. I’ve got to say, I’ve got a new appreciation for Comixology, and digital comics in general.

So I made a bet with somebody. Can you tell who that robot is in the title card for Batman: The Adventures Continue #2? I say the audience that’s reading this book will be able to tell…

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #2
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer).
RELEASED: April 15, 2020

More of the same quality from last time. We get a guest appearance that, in hindsight, was super easy to see coming… See what I did there?

We also have Batman don the DC Animated Universe version of his Dark Knight Returns armor. Can’t say we really needed that. Here’s hoping they actually have good ideas for these “new” bits of DC lore they’re introducing (Jason Todd, Deathstroke, etc), and aren’t just doing this as a sales gimmick.

I trust Burnett and Dini. Really, I do. But you never know…

TITLE: Lost on Planet Earth #1
AUTHOR:
Magdalene Visaggio
ARTISTS:
Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam (Letterer)
RELEASED:
April 15, 2020

I downloaded this on a whim from Comixology. Claudia Aguirre’s artwork drew me in.

It looks like what we have here is a book about a girl who trained her whole life to be one thing. She decides she doesn’t want to be that anymore, and then goes off to discover new places, and perhaps a new purpose. That’s something a lot of people can relate to. I know I can.

This future setting (the 24th century) doesn’t do much for me, as it doesn’t seem suitably futuristic thus far. But I’m inclined to come back for more.

TITLE: FAB #1
AUTHORS:
Max Gadney, Julian Parry
ARTISTS:
Parry, Nikki Foxrobot (Letterer)
RELEASED: April 8, 2020

I can’t say I expected what I got from this one. But I can’t complain either.

FAB is more or less a ground-level gritty cop story set in a future where people can make anything with 3D printers. If you’ve ever wondered what a cult of religious terrorists might do that kind of tech, look no further than FAB.

Gadney and Parry work hard early on to establish a strong rapport between their two lead characters, which is something that will keep readers coming back. Dare I say, this one is an overachiever.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing Deep-Dive – Penguin Steals the Show

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing
AUTHORS: Tom King, Ram V, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Taylor,
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Elena Casagrande, Jill Thompson, Otto Schmidt
COLORISTS: Bellaire, Matt Wilson, Trish Mulvhill,
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Deron Bennett, Troy Peteri
COLLECTS: Batman #58-60, Batman Secret Files #1, Batman Annual #3
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: March 20, 2019

***WARNING: There’s a minor spoiler ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Tyrant Wing is more or less a transitionary book. Bruce and Selina’s wedding has happened. Or rather, not happened. We dealt with a lot of the fall-out from it in Cold Days. In The Tyrant Wing we start setting the stage for Tom King’s big finale. A new opponent for Batman emerges. One that even the world’s greatest detective couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

But along the way King, Mikel Janin, and the Batman team unexpectedly do some justice for a character that doesn’t always get the love he deserves: The Penguin.

1. Penny In Your Thoughts
If you’re a guy who happens to be down on his luck romantically, I offer you this bit of consolation: If the Penguin can find a bride, so can you.

Then again, she’s dead now. So maybe that’s not the hopeful example we wanna go with.

Yes, apparently ol’ Pengers had a wife we never saw or heard about. Her name? Penny Cobblepot. Though almost 30 years younger than him, it’s quickly obvious Penguin loved her dearly. Suddenly, he’s a man with nothing left to lose. So he starts spilling secrets. Secrets about Bane…

To Tom King’s credit, this might be the most multi-dimensional take on the Penguin I’ve ever seen. We see pieces of virtually every version of the character. We get the squawking supervillain with the trick umbrellas. We get the freakish, portly gentleman with the soul of a poet. We get the unspeakably cruel crime boss. We even get a small trace of the fish-slurping monster we saw in Batman Returns. Like many Batman villains, we’re against him but we also manage to find some sympathy for him.

Like a lot of fans, I’ve given King my share of grief over some of the choices he’s made on this series. I’ll continue to do so, in fact. But he knocked ol’ Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot right out of the park.

This is most evident in issue #60. A blindfolded Penguin is locked up in the Batcave talking to Alfred. This is instantly compelling, as we don’t often see Alfred interacting with the villains, much less one he might have something in common with. They bond over, of all things, poetry. At one point, Penguin even calls his anonymous keeper, “my friend.” Alfred then feeds him raw fish by hand. It’s one of those scenes that, considering both characters have been around for decades, it’s shocking it hasn’t been done.

As the Penguin endures heartbreak, Batman punches his way across Gotham searching for the truth about what Bane is plotting. Naturally, this causes a hell of a lot of friction with Gordon and the GCPD. None of this really grabbed me, as we’ve seen this kind of story many times before. Things get a little more engaging in issue #60 when Jorge Fornes tags in for the Batman sequences.

Unfortunately, I do need to make note of one the clunkier lines in this entire run. When Batman barges into Arkham to confront Bane, he’s met by a SWAT team. As he’s dismantling them, while generally being a raging prick about the whole thing, he says among other things…

“Right now, each of you has a choice to make. Do I pull that trigger and get a Bat-boot shoved through my face? Or do I let the man go about his business?”

Yup. Bat-boot. Our legendary hero, everybody.

2. The Butler Does It All
We shift gears here. Venturing away from the main plot, we move to author Tom Taylor and artist Otto Schmidt and one of the best Alfred Pennyworth stories of the modern era. If not all time.

Given the stunt DC recently pulled with Alfred, they put out an issue dedicated to him. Various members of the Batman family shared memories of him. But frankly, something like Batman Annual #3 is a much better tribute issue. It touches on the various things Alfred does to make the whole Batman operation work. But more importantly, it dives  into why he does it and what he gets from it.

Think of it this way: Gotham needs Batman. Batman needs Alfred. So at the end of the day, what does that make Alfred?

3. Batman in Quarantine (Kind of…)
The trade closes out with a Secret Files issue that’s very much a mixed bag. We open up with a three-page Tom King/Mikel Janin story. Or rather, part of a story. As Batman is feeling the wear and tear on his body, Superman just happens to offer him access to a new kind of Kryptonite. Platinum Kryptonite, of which a single touch will grant him the same powers as Superman. The story ends with Bruce asking Alfred, “Am I enough?”

I call BS on this for two reasons.

Firstly, to just end the story on that note, even if it’s only meant to serve as an introduction, is a crime. Batman is literally offered all the same powers as Superman. And you don’t give his answer? What kinda lazy garbage is that? Over a decade ago, DC put out a story called Super/Bat that more or less had this same premise, and Batman does get Superman’s powers. It was amazing. If you want to give your own take on that story, but all means go for it. But to leave it open-ended like that? Screw you.

Secondly, while it’s not a direct line of dialogue, it’s indicated that Superman tells Batman if he touches this new Kryptonite, “Then you can fight as I fight. As you should fight. With true strength.”

No. Wrong. I understand the implication they’re making about where true strength comes from. But Superman’s “true strength” does not come from his powers. It comes from his character. From his ideals. The way he views the world. I don’t have an issue with him offering Batman super powers. But for him to suggest that’s where “true strength” comes from is out of character. Bad form.

After a story about a cop feeling long-term effects from Scarecrow gas, we get one about Waynetech drones winding up in the wrong hands and what Bruce does about it. I actually got more of an Iron Man vibe from that one. The book closes with a team-up between Batman and Detective Chimp, which is fun.

But the only other story in the issue that really sticks out is a tale written by colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire. On Man-Bat’s trail, Batman secludes himself in a cabin amidst Gotham’s snow-covered mountains. As it turns out, this notorious loner doesn’t do so well when he’s forced to be on his own.

The operative line of the story is, “Truth is, I’m not such a fan of myself.”

The central idea here is really compelling. What does Bruce Wayne’s self image look like? What does a man who goes out every night dressed like a bat to beat up criminals think of himself? You could do a whole story on that.

While this was written some time ago, it’s timely to discuss it now. As I type this we’re in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. People around the world are quarantined in their homes. Naturally, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Even if you’re Batman.

4. A Bridge Worth Crossing
Is The Tyrant Wing an essential read? No. But is it a good read? Yes. I enjoyed this book more than many of the earlier books in this series. Mostly because of the Penguin. I’ll go ahead and say it: Too many people sleep on him as a character. He’s more than just a portly dude with an umbrella. He’s a scoundrel. He’s a gentleman. He’s an iconic villain.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Rules of Engagement, Bride or Burglar?, The Wedding, and Cold Days.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Kevin Conroy Reads Batman: The Adventures Continue #1

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Ladies and gentlemen, the Batman has arrived.

Normally, this is the part where you’d run down Kevin Conroy’s accolades. How he’s been the quintessential voice of Batman for almost 30 years now, all the different projects, the Arkham games, the Injustice games, etc. But chances are if you’re reading this you already know all that.

So if I were you, I’d pull up Batman: The Adventures Continue #1 and follow along as Kevin Conroy reads the issue script written by Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, courtesy of Stephen Alvarez‘s YouTube channel. Is it a little weird to hear him do the sound effects? Not to mention all the other character voices? Sure. (Though his Lex Luthor isn’t so bad…)

But listen to Batman’s voice come off the page and tell me it’s not magic.

I’m not sure what spoiler he’s talking when the video begins. But the funny thing is, he kinda/sorta gave us a spoiler here. As far as I know, no official announcement had been made about the Jason Todd thing. So he technically blew the lid off that one.

But let’s be honest, we all knew it was him anyway. So no harm no foul.

Incidentally, I didn’t catch that detail with Veronica holding up three fingers in reference to the number of kids Bruce has taken in. Nice touch.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.